Ciena tech takes OPTK network speeds to 400G

OPTK Networks, a regional fiber provider based in Nebraska, is boosting speed capacity on its 4,000-mile fiber network from 100 Gbps to 400 Gbps. The upgrade was facilitated through Ciena's 6500 packet-optical transport platform, which has been deployed along OPTK's long-haul route from Denver to Omaha.

OPTK Director of Operations Tim Smith said the deployment will enhance network capacity for a broader range of locations in response to heightened customer demand.

The Ciena 6500 hardware includes its WaveLogic 5 Extreme 800G and WaveLogic Ai 400G coherent optic modems. Launched in 2020, WaveLogic 5e is capable of transmitting and receiving up to 800G of network traffic on a single wavelength. 

OPTK’s dark fiber, wavelength, carrier Ethernet and internet spans across Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa, where it serves businesses, service providers and utilities, among other institutions across the region. Smith said that OPTK has seen primary use cases for 400G speeds “predominantly” revolve around data center-to-data center connectivity. “This is particularly evident in scenarios involving nationwide wholesale clients and hyperscalers,” he told Fierce Telecom.

While 400G might suffice for now, Smith noted the OPTK network system is already prepared to accommodate speeds of 1Tb/s and beyond once "technological advancements progress."

The Ciena collaboration will also facilitate OPTK integrating into a unified platform all of its OTN switching, coherent optics and optical line systems. Implementing the Ciena Manage, Control and Plan (MCP) domain controller into its network management environment will provide OPTK with centralized control over its network, including online planning to streamline and the introduction of new services.

Deploying Ciena’s hardware into the OPTK network took around three months for completion, according to Smith, and the fiber provider is in an "ongoing effort" to transition its services to the Ciena 6500 platform.

Ciena’s coherent optics success

OPTK isn't the first provider to tap into Ciena's tech. In October, open access network provider eCommunity Fiber said Ciena’s equipment would boost its line rate from 100 Gbps to 400 Gbps for its last-mile fiber networks. 

In November, Ciena surpassed 100,000 shipments of its WaveLogic 5 800G coherent optics modems globally, with more than 250 customers across 68 countries using the technology. The 100,000 shipment milestone came just months after Ciena in June announced it shipped 75,000 of those modems.

Dell’Oro Group’s lead analyst for Optical Transport Market Research, Jimmy Yu, said Ciena took “an early lead in 800G technology when launching WaveLogic 5 and the volume of shipments shows the demand for high-performance coherent solutions is robust.”

The analyst firm doesn’t see demand waning with the next speed generation such as 1.6-Tbps capable WaveLogic 6, which Yu said “will be a critical technology for sustainably growing networks to meet bandwidth demand that is rising 30% each year. We anticipate that in five years over 50% of capacity additions will come from DWDM systems built with sixth-generation coherent digital signal processors.”

Ciena said it would release an update to the WaveLogic 5 line – WaveLogic 6 – sometime in the first half of 2024. The vendor claimed that WaveLogic 6 can deliver 1.6 Tbps over a single wavelength across 1,000 kilometers.

As for Ciena’s 6500 packet-optical platform, a representative told Fierce that it has been deployed by over 800 customers around the world as of January 2024.